So your diapers smell like ammonia.  Not a pleasant smell, and if left too long, it will cause a rash.  Why is this happening, and how can you fix it?

Ammonia smell is caused by three things: uric acid crystals formed by urine drying in the diaper, detergent residue, and bacteria in the layers of the fabric.  To fix it, you need to attack it on all three fronts.

The first thing is to rinse all morning diapers and any very soaked diaper in fresh water.  The Diaper Sprayer is the easiest way to do this.  This will help prevent the uric acid crystals from forming.

Second is to kill the bacteria buildup in the fabric.  The easiest way to do this is with plain old chlorine bleach.  "Bleach?!" you say.  "I thought I couldn't use bleach on my diapers."  Well, this is my dirty (clean?) little secret - I use bleach on most of my diapers and they are just fine.  Now this may void some manufacturer warranties, and it can destroy waterproofing if used in large amounts, but used judiciously, it cures a lot of problems.  In fact, bumGenius actually recommends it once a month.  If you are concerned, the safest thing to do is just bleach the inserts or prefolds (you have to be careful with fitteds b/c they are often dyed cotton and this color will fade  PUL colors won't fade but again, be careful with the waterproofing.)  I only use 1 tablespoon in a whole load of diaper inserts about once a month, then rinse it twice, and my diapers smell fresh and clean.  If you really don't want to do this, you can try the "Sanitary" cycle on your front-loader on the inserts/prefolds.  This can also harm waterproofing on some PUL, so be careful.

Third is to make sure that you are not using too much detergent on a regular basis.  You can check this by doing a normal wash cycle, and then turning it back on hot and seeing if any suds form.  If so, you have been using too much all along, and stripping them and using less will help.

Finally, if all else fails, reserving 2 or 3 cheap diapers/inserts for nighttime and replacing them regularly can be a lifesaver.  Prefolds and flats make great cheap pocket diaper inserts and can be replaced when you feel they are too gross.

The requisite legal disclaimer (which I hate but my legal training requires it): This is my own experience and I cannot promise that it will work for you or that the bleach won't cause a problem.  I highly doubt it if you use 1 tablespoon once a month, but you do so at your own risk!


Jennifer Beers

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